Based on my more than two decades experience working in philanthropy, I firmly believe that part of the answer is in an unexpected source: CREATIVITY. Telling stories, using unexpected language, and crafting a fresh approach engages the reader (a foundation officer or trustee) and can help your proposal float to the top of the pile.
I also know, from years of experience, that my own writing can sometimes get stale. I may find myself writing the same sentences, using the same phrases, and constructing proposals in the same ways, over and over. Even I can get bored with my own writing! That’s when I turn to creative writing prompts to shake things up. Here are a few prompts – focused on nonprofits and grant writing – that will enliven your writing and your creative spirit.
Grant writing creative prompts:
- What if the need for your program didn’t exist?
- Set a timer for 60 seconds. Write as many words as you can think of that describe your organization. No phrases, just words.
- What would one of your organization's clients write in this proposal?
- Someone says “I didn’t know your organization did that!” Why did they say it?
- Write a testimonial quote from a disgruntled client or supporter.
- Your organization is releasing an album. What’s the album title, and what are the titles of five of the songs on the album?
- Five words that best describe how your organization’s beneficiaries feel.
- Start/Stop list: Five things your organization should start doing, and five things it should stop doing.
- Tweet your proposal: sell the idea in 140 characters.
- Find a magazine. Open it to a random page, which has a photo or other image. How does that image relate to your cause or organization?
- Write five one-syllable words that describe the cause/need your organization addresses.
- What’s the first thing your organization should spend $100 on?
- What does your organization have in common with winter? With summer?
- Write an online dating profile for your organization.
- Write an obituary for your organization.
- Fast 15: Five sounds, tastes, and smells that describe what your organization does.
- What should be the last sentence of this proposal?
- Finish this sentence from a donor/supporter: I support this organization because...
- Nonprofit haiku: Write a 5 syllable/7 syllable/5 syllable poem that describes your organization or cause.
- Talk to me like I’m 5: Explain your organization’s work to a five year old child.